Italy's Berlusconi launches new political party

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ROME, Nov 18 (Reuters) Italian centre-right leader Silvio Berlusconi, under attack from his coalition allies, announced today he was launching a new party and would dissolve the Forza Italy (Go Italy!) group he founded in the early 1990s.

Surrounded by supporters in a central Milan square, Berlusconi said he would officially present The Party of the Italian People of Freedoms tomorrow.

''Come with us, against the old fogeys of politics to form a great new party of the people,'' Berlusconi said, adding that his ''new creation will be a protagonist of Italian politics for the coming decades''.

The 71 year-old media-tycoon also announced Forza Italia had gathered 7 million signatures in towns and cities around the country over the weekend asking President Giorgio Napolitano to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.

Berlusconi's surprise move came after his closest ally said on Sunday Berlusconi's Freedom Alliance coalition would collapse by end-year unless Berlusconi changed strategy.

Right-wing National Alliance leader Gianfranco Fini accused Berlusconi of failing to unite the centre-right behind any common proposals and focusing instead on an obsessive and counter-productive call for a general election.

''The time has come when either the centre-right shows it can unite, find a mission, offer the country a programme, or else we accept that the coalition no longer exists and everyone goes their own way,'' Fini told la Repubblica daily.

REUTERS PY VC2352

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